Molekule Air Purifier Review: Molekule Air Pro

Molekule Air Purifier Review: Molekule Air Pro

How much attention do you pay to your home’s air quality? It may be invisible, but that doesn’t mean that air quality isn’t perceptible. Stale odors, smoky conditions or the lingering scent of Sunday morning’s bacon are all indicators that particles unseen to the human eye are hanging around in your indoor air. Also unseen and often imperceptible to the nose are VOCs, emitted from household mainstays like furniture, fabrics and some interior paint products.

If you’re anything like me, you are aware of the facts surrounding indoor air quality but procrastinate on doing anything to ensure that you are breathing in good, clean air. Part of my hesitancy to adopt an air purifier is the ugly aesthetics of most units on the market. A big black or grey box with a bunch of buttons on top just doesn’t fit into the space I’ve been carefully curating with mid-century modern finds and treasured vintage objects.

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Enter the Molekule Air Pro: a super sleek, top-of-the-line air purifier. The brand has probably been in your Instagram feed and popping up on website ads. The largest member of the Molekule air purifier family, it’s equipped to treat the air in rooms of up to 1,000 square feet.

With its cylindrical shape, anodized aluminum finish and leather-like handle, the purifier made me actually excited to make space for it. From a technical aspect, Molekule promises superior air filtration thanks to its innovative PECO filtration technology that destroys contaminants rather than merely trapping them. The ability to control the unit with a smartphone app was appealing, too.

Easy Set Up, Tricky Wi-Fi

Setting up the 22.9-pound Molekule Air Pro is as easy as plugging the unit into a nearby outlet, twisting the core from the center of the air purifier and removing plastic from the PECO filter inside. Re-insert the filter and the Molekule’s LCD screen comes to life—ready to connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network.

This is where things got sticky. I downloaded the Molekule app, hoping to get the air purifier up and running in a few minutes. But forty-five minutes later, my husband and I were both frustrated trying to get the Air Pro connected to our Wi-Fi network. The app continuously stalled during the pairing phase, leaving us exasperated. Molly, the name we bestowed upon our air purifier when prompted by the app, seemed unable to communicate with our network. Later that evening, we followed the troubleshooting steps and after a few more unsuccessful tries, Molly and our Wi-Fi network finally paired up. We haven’t had any more connectivity issues since.

My enthusiasm for the Air Pro was a 10/10 at unboxing and significantly lowered after the technology troubles. This is one of the most expensive residential air purifiers on the market, and for the price I expected a flawless setup experience. But technology can be tricky and the fact that the problem hasn’t persisted allows me to overlook this early frustration.

It’s worth noting that the Air Pro has an odd odor initially. The packaging preps you for the fact that some off-gassing will occur and Molekule attributes the scent to an initial filter break-in period, but it seems ironic that an air purifier designed to remove smells contributes such a distinctive odor to the air. I wondered if this scent would be the new normal in our house but it did eventually dissipate. It was never a bad smell, but definitely noticeable and unusual.

Using The Molekule Air Pro

After setup, operation is simple and straightforward. Your biggest decisions will be whether to operate the air purifier in Standard mode or Quiet mode, and whether you want to manually set fan speed or use the auto setting. The auto setting allows the unit to increase fan speed in response to a rise in particulates in the air, as measured by a built-in sensor. We have no qualms with trusting our devices to make good decisions and automating operation, so we went with the auto setting. We started Molly off in the Standard mode to see what the unit is capable of, and also to capture all the VOCs our new sofa was probably emitting.

Molekule Air Quality Metrics

There are two types of gadget users—those who want to get in the nitty-gritty, and those who want to simply, set it and forget it. The Molekule offers up basic air quality information that can help you keep tabs on indoor quality without overwhelming you with stats.

A laser within the Air Pro measures particle size in a cross-section of air to approximate air quality. It should be noted that Molekule is quick to point out that indoor air quality is a combination of many factors and the Air Pro is not equipped to be a comprehensive indicator of air quality. In other words, use the air quality status as a guide, not a complete tool for assessing the air in your home.

The LCD screen uses a color-coded system to give you an idea of air quality at a glance. Tap the screen to wake the Air Pro and you’ll see green, yellow, red or violet illumination, with a corresponding rating of Good, Moderate, Bad or Very Bad. Checking in on my home’s air quality has become a bit of a reflex. A few times each day, as I pass Molly I tap the screen to get a quick visual on the status of the air. Since green means good, I rarely dig deeper if I spot the green circle. But if the air quality is rated as Moderate (or even Very Bad—which has been rare since day one with it), I swipe left to see the breakdown of particles that the Molekule is detecting in the air.

The Molekule Air Pro reports on three different particle sizes: PM 10, PM 2.5 and PM 1.0. A sliding scale of good, moderate, bad or very bad is again used to give you a relative—but not a precise—indicator of how many particles of each size are being detected by the Molekule. I’m not sure why I would need to know the particle count in any greater detail, but sometimes I wish it could tell me more. There’s a vacuum cleaner on the market now that uses a laser to measure and count dust particles (looking at you, Dyson V15 Detect), so I guess I’m conditioned to expect information overload.

What’s most important to know is that particulate matter with a diameter of 10 microns or less can be inhaled and settle in the lungs. Fine particulate matter has a diameter smaller than 2.5 microns and poses the greatest risk to health, according to the EPA.

Knowing what Air Pro regularly detects in the air has helped me make more informed decisions about my home’s environment. I cannot change or control every source of indoor air pollution, but it’s possible to improve air circulation or remove common sources of contaminants. And for what I can’t change, I feel better having Molly on duty to capture and destroy airborne particles.

Molekule Air Pro’s PECO Filter Replacement And Problems

In the battle against indoor air pollution, the Molekule Air Pro’s secret weapon is PECO filtration. Contaminants like mold, viruses, bacteria and volatile organic compounds, become trapped in the treated layers of the PECO filter inside the Air Pro. An ultra-violet light at the center of the filter reacts with the coating on this filter in a way that breaks down pollutants at a molecular level. Purified air is then released from the top of the unit.

Molekule claims that this process of using free radicals to destroy contaminants allows the Air Pro to destroy particles 1,000 times smaller than the standard set for HEPA filters. The flip side is that there are no generic filters available for the Molekule Air Pro.

The Air Pro scans the filter and will not operate if a generic PECO filter is installed. You can order filters on-demand from Molekule, but the company also offers an automatic filter refill plan at a substantial discount on the price per filter, which you can pause or cancel at any time. You can check the filter’s remaining life at any time on the LCD screen of the Air Pro or in the app.

In my testing experience, the PECO filter wasn’t without problems. Two days after setting up the Air Pro, an error message appeared indicating that there was no filter in the device—despite it being there since initial installation. The error message disappeared after a few hours and the unit continued operating as if nothing had happened.

Two weeks later, a more ominous-looking error appeared with a red background. The message read “Filter cannot be validated”—proof positive that the Molekule isn’t designed to play nice with generic air filters.

I’m happy to report that Molekule’s tech support is readily available, polite and professional. After explaining the error messages, the customer representative instructed me on re-installing the filter. The error was temporarily resolved but reappeared about a week later. I reached back out to the tech team and received a prompt response that the filter was likely defective in some way and a complimentary new PECO filter would be shipped to me (along with pre-paid shipping label to return the old one).

The faulty filter was the most frustrating part of using the Molekule Air Pro. When spending a premium price for an air purifier, the recurring error messages were a nuisance. However, Molekule stepped up with prompt and professional customer support that ultimately resolved the problem, with no out-of-pocket cost to me.

After almost two months of use, I have 77% of my filter life remaining. How long a filter lasts will depend on your air quality, but Molekule preps you to expect to replace the filter about every six months.

Molekule Air Pro’s Impact On Air Quality

During my nearly three month test of the Molekule Air Pro, I noticed the most remarkable impact on air quality within the first 24 hours of operating the unit. Initially, the unit rated my air quality as Very Bad, with high levels of all three types of particulate matter. There are likely a number of reasons for this, but I blame my addiction to scented candles, along with a brand new sofa constructed with a modular plywood frame (plywood is a major culprit for off-gassing). After roughly two hours, air quality had been revised to Moderate. We left the unit running overnight and it finally improved to Good by the next morning.

Beyond the first 24 hours of use, the Molekule Air Pro has made a significant and perceptible difference in our home’s air quality, or scent aesthetic, as I like to call it. Before Molly arrived, I would cringe at the thought of cooking fish on the stovetop or enhancing a dish with sautéed garlic. I often wondered if I was nose-blind to my own home’s odors while my friends were too polite to point them out.

After using the Molekule for several weeks, I noticed that my home has a more neutral scent that doesn’t out me for my cooking habits, laundry routine or the trash that needs to be taken out. Of course, no air purifier is a substitute for a regular housekeeping protocol, but I’ve found that it helps to keep specific odors from lingering in the air.

Noise Level Of The Molekule Air Pro

Many people wonder how noisy the Air Pro is, and this is a great question because Molekule recommends running the air purifier 24/7. In Standard mode with average air quality, it’s about the same volume as a fan operating at low speed. You will hear it, but it won’t be a hindrance to conversation or television watching. However, if air quality takes a nosedive and the unit increases fan speed to more quickly purify the air, the noise level increases significantly. More than once, Molly has kicked it into high gear to compensate for my burnt toast. After a few weeks of operation in Standard mode, I decided to switch over to Quiet mode and now we hardly ever hear the fan—unless I’ve burnt the toast again.

The bottom line is that if you want your purifier to be seen and not heard, stick with Quiet mode. But know that Standard mode offers far more power to clear the air in a shorter period of time and may be useful for specific situations.  

Estimated Energy Usage For The Molekule Air Pro

Molekule recommends that you run the air purifier 24/7 to continuously filter your home’s air. We’ve followed this suggestion since the first day and haven’t noticed any noticeable spike in our electric bill. But if you’re looking to estimate the cost of operating the Molekule Air Pro in your own home, the company provides a chart that details how many kilowatt-hours (kWH) of energy the unit uses for each fan speed (there are 6 fan speeds in total). To save you some math, Molekule provides the number of kWh of energy consumed in a period of 24-hours, 30 days, or for an entire year. Multiply the total number of kilowatt-hours by the cost per kilowatt of electricity in your area to find your estimated cost for operating the Molekule Air Pro.

In my case, running the Molekule Air Pro for 365 days would result in a maximum operating cost of $173 annually, or about $14 per month. However, note that this figure is calculated based on running the unit at top speed for 365 days—something that never happens in my house. Instead, Molly runs at the lowest fan speed most of the time, so the minimum operating cost would be $37.22 annually, or just $3 a month.

However, if you want to put the Molekule on hiatus, there is a Standby mode. You can access it from the unit’s touchscreen or in the app. This will turn off the fan and UV light that glows from within the unit. It should be noted that this ultra-violet glow can only be turned off by putting the unit in Standby mode. If the Air Pro is anywhere near your sleeping area and you’re easily affected by ambient light sources, your only option will be to put the unit to sleep each night when you go to bed.

Final Thoughts On The Molekule Air Pro

If you’re debating whether the Molekule Air Pro is the best air purifier for you, consider your top priorities. There is no doubt that the Air Pro is one of the sleekest and most stylish air purifiers on the market. It has a modern, unobtrusive design that won’t make you want to hide it in a closet. But its merit goes deeper than its aesthetics: The technology behind this air purifier is lab-tested and effective at reducing some of the most common causes of indoor air pollution.

The biggest caveats are the cost of investing in this large air purifier and its replacement filters, along with taking on some potential technology troubles. Like many modern devices, be prepared for some Wi-Fi woes and occasional errors or glitches. If that’s a deal breaker for you, a more simple air purifier with fewer features might be a better option.

Molekule offers a 30-day return window on its air purifiers, but if you want to return it, there’s a $15 charge if you require a replacement box. So take note to keep the original box until you’re certain that you’re satisfied with the unit.

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